It’s All About the Fish: Tahsis Salmon Enhancement Derby 2018
You know those, “Oh, I get it” moments? Out of all the trips to derbies, lodges, and scenic fishing spots on Vancouver Island in 2018, the trip to Tahsis was truly mine. When I took the helm of Island Fisherman magazine last January, I knew a handful of people in the local industry. Although I’ve been fishing Vancouver Island for decades, and made a lot of friends along the way, what I learned in my first year (and especially on this trip), really opened more than just my eyes—it opened my heart.
Fishing is a fundamental part of Vancouver Island’s culture, and the more the remote places you go, the more you’ll understand that. The passion goes far beyond landing a big one or making a career in an industry that’s fun. And while off-Islanders may be excited about one of the many great derbies with super prizes, they may not fully understand what role they really take.
As I write this, and more than likely at the time you are reading this as well, there’s great concern about what will happen to our fisheries. Instead of delving too deep into the background issues, let me suggest something everyone reading this can do to make a difference: Participate in a derby that raises funds for salmon enhancement. Not only will you have the best fishing fun and camaraderie, you’ll be giving back. Don’t know which one? Bookmark the event page on our website and check in frequently. While each derby has a different vibe, the purpose is the same—to raise badly needed money. Our new columnist Allison Bligh will explain more about the inner workings of hatcheries and how you can get involved, so I won’t get into that here. Instead, let me tell you about this derby I attended in August, 2018.
Have you ever been to Tahsis? If you have, you’ve likely visited Westview Marina. This was my destination—derby central! We started this adventure from Gold River by boat. While you can drive from Gold River along to Tahsis, it’s a bit rough with a large boat in tow. Besides, I can seldom resist time on the boat to enjoy on-the-water scenery. It’s just too spectacular. We meandered through Muchalat Inlet, around the North side of Bligh Island to Camel Rock, then across to Canal Island and up the Tahsis Inlet where we were greeted with a thick, eerie, yellowish haze—smoke from the fires burning in the hills above Esperanza.
Pulling into the bustling Westview Marina, we could tell we were in for a treat. There, we met up with owner and operator John Falavolito, who gave us a rundown on the days to come. He also was kind enough to lend us his car to take all our gear to our accommodation. Small-town hospitality…you just can’t beat it. Immediately, I felt welcome.
The next morning we headed out before dawn and took the turn around Monzino Pt., down the Tahsis Narrows to the Hecate Channel, and around Steamer Pt. to the Esperanza Inlet.
A smoky 2018 August derby day in Esperanza Inlet
We dropped a set of anchovies (one deep at 80 ft, one shallow at 30 ft) with glow teasers at Saltery Bay and hugged the shore, making our way slowly for the day to Garden Point. It didn’t take long to get a bite on the deep line, but after pulling in a bocaccio rockfish, we quickly learn that shallow was the way to go. And what a way to go it was! Whamity-wham-wham! Day 1 brought in a couple beauty Chinook and a sweet coho. We found that early morning was working around Saltery, and later in the day was most certainly time for the Log Dump.
Returning to the dock that evening, it was clear that we didn’t have the winning fish. There was a lot of action at the cleaning tables. And how nice is it to have a cold pint of beer brought to you while the DFO is sampling your fish and recording all the details that helps them to monitor this fishery’s health? It was great mixing and mingling with all the other people happily filleting their catch. John came over to me and asked, “Are you getting it, Joel?” “Yes, of course!” I mean, I thought I was. Everyone was ‘come-as-you-are’, having a blast, fishing, telling stories, and getting along famously. What more was there “to get?” Well, that evening, I got my “intel” for day 2. I was lucky enough to meet Coulton, guiding for Westview on the Donzie.
Coulton getting the net ready at Pin Rocks on the Donzi
The next day, with Coulton’s advice, we managed an almost-derby-placing coho at Double Island—12.5 lb! Pin Rocks was pretty much home sweet home for most of the remainder of the day, and we brought in a limit of Chinook.
Next up, the awards reception, banquet, and auction. This is where it really hit me. This was where I “got it.” To kick off the awards, John gave a short speech welcoming everyone and announcing that the 15th annual derby raised an all-time high of $54,782 updated Oct 27th, 2019 – new total $57,131 for salmon enhancement. “It’s all about the fish!” he chanted. The room exploded with voices chanting along, “It’s all about the fish! It’s all about the fish!” Now, I got it. John saw me standing at the side of the room chanting along, and I think at that moment he knew, that I did indeed “get it.” John wanted to mention that, “None of this would have been possible without the thousands of man hours every year; it’s a year round activity fo the volunteer hatchery people. Then there is the derby planning committee, set-up and tear-down crew, the derby says activities, and prizes from all over, on and off-island. It’s so important that we think of all those people’s efforts to make this happen.”
You see, these funds support the regional rivers and two high school hatchery study programs. The Tahsis Salmon Enhancement Society (TSES) target for fingerling release is 500,000 Chinook and 250,000 coho, and every penny counts. A good portion of the funds also went to the Nootka Sound Watershed Society (NSWS) to support the cost of increasing production of Chinook by 1.1 million fish at the Conuma Hatchery, for a total production of 4.3 million Chinook fingerlings to be released this spring. So I ask you, what better way to give back than having fun in a derby in 2019? Because remember, without us ‘sporties’, who else is going to support all the volunteer efforts that sustain the fish stocks in our waters? At the end of the day, it truly is “All About The Fish”.
John Falavolito with Ron Taylor and Ron Jr Taylor